Lego has won a trademark battle after a court ruled that its mini-figures should continue to be classed as protected shapes.
The European court of justice (ECJ) rejected on Tuesday an attempt by Best-Lock, a Lancashire-based toymaker, to appeal against the trademark protection of Lego’s figures.
The Danish company registered its famous figures as a three-dimensional trademark in 2000 after protection under a technical patent came to an end. Best-Lock, which has sold figures which are highly similar to Lego toys around the world since 1998, first attempted to get the trademark revoked in 2012.
Best-Lock argued that the shape of Lego figures is determined by “the possibility of joining them to other interlocking building blocks for play purposes”. If the court had agreed that the figures were mere building blocks, Lego’s trademark would have been invalid.
The European Court of Justice has backed Lego’s argument that its mini-figures are sufficiently distinctive in character to be more than just building bricks. It ruled that the toys’ characteristics, such as holes in the feet and a protrusion on their heads, did not obviously have a technical function.
Lego Group’s Peter Kjaer said: “We are happy that the court has upheld the ruling of the previous two court instances, and that our European three-dimensional trademark for the world-known Lego mini-figures has thus been confirmed.”
Torsten Geller, the chief executive of Best-Lock, said the company would continue to sell its mini-figures and launch a further legal appeal against Lego’s trademark.He said: “The mini-figure conforms with all the Lego standards. It is the same to us as a two-by-four block.” The figures’ body height was the same as three building blocks and its hat the size of a single block, Geller added.